A Brandisher In The French Quarter
My French Quarter walking tour has just ended. I’m walking back to my car, a skip in my step, a rare day’s wage in my pocket. I turn the corner of Dauphine and St. Ann and there’s a guy in the middle of the street, waving a weapon.
If you spend a lot of time in the Quarter, as I do, your tolerance for the crazy hardens appreciably. But coming upon what legal folks like to call a public “brandishing” still has the force of surprise.
He’s tall and trim, dressed in tight denim and a crisp plaid shirt, untucked, looking like a country boy out on the town. His pencil-thin goatee is trimmed just so, like he’s nimble with one of those fancy manscaping accessories you see during ads on ESPN.
It’s the middle of the afternoon, right outside of Good Friends Bar, where the regular Sunday afternoon crowd has spilled out onto the sidewalks under the banners of the rainbow.
Apparently someone has said something which the brandisher has taken umbrage to. Perhaps it had something to do with him looking just so in the midst of a jovial crowd of not-so-tall and not-so-natty middle aged gay men.
That’s just a guess.
The brandisher is spewing a litany of predictable gay invective, pointing the weapon in various directions. This being the French Quarter, half of the passersby are scattering down the street like Styrofoam cups skittering in the wind. Half are sticking around to see what happens. I am among the latter.
I run into a Quarter acquaintance and, since everyone seems frozen in the moment and the target of the brandisher’s ire seems unclear as he turns in circles, looking more mad than menacing, we do what any fine upstanding citizen would do. We start heckling him.
After all, he pretty much looks like an idiot waving a weapon at a bunch of jolly gay unarmed drinkers, half of whom are laughing at him and the other half of whom, in their ritualistic revelry, don’t even appear to know he is there.
As noted, public spectacle is no rarity in these parts.
The brandisher, finally having ascertained a foe, approaches my friend and me. With the gun now in much closer proximity to our torsos, we naturally try to diffuse the situation. And we also tell him he looks like an idiot, what with all this fuss.
“Call the cops,” my friend tells his companion. “I AM A COP!” the brandisher informs us in all caps. Naturally we ask for identification. He demands ours. We decline. He matches our reticence. Says he’s gonna arrest us.
At this point, his more diminutive companion approaches, similarly fashionably adorned with a gun belt around her waist, but hers with a much softer, prettier pink trim and gun handle. His is all black and mean. With an extended clip.
You know what they say about a man and the size of his magazine.
As they get in their car, I walk up behind and take a cell phone photo of their plates.
They are gone by the time the police arrive. Which I should note, was very quickly, but not as quickly as Quick Draw McGraw and his Annie Oakley beat their hasty retreat.
The cops, they’re relatively attentive to the witnesses and the aggrieved. But not so juiced by the whole thing, what with much of their daily ordeal comprising brandishers. That is, until we tell them the guy told us he was one of them.
Whoa. Like the NOPD doesn’t have enough problems without a hillbilly justice seeker besmirching the badge on an otherwise placid Sunday afternoon. Waving a gun in public, that’s one thing. Impersonating a police officer? Hell, that’s a crime.
And so. My friend and I – apparently the most coherent and vivid of witnesses to the incident – are summoned to the 8th District Police Station a few nights later, where we are separated to give statements and physical descriptions of the perp and, after a lengthy delay, are each called back to separately go through similarly identical photo line-ups.
We both pick the same guy. And obviously, if they had his photo on file – and this may be presumptive, given that one is innocent until proven….oh, screw that – they knew the guy.
On it, they tell us.
That was over a year ago. My friend has since relocated to another city for love. We keep in touch to see if the other has ever heard back from the cops. We haven’t.
Fast forward: A little while back, I’m at a roadside gas station outside of Pontchatoula grabbing a cup of coffee when I notice that the guy in front of me in line looks familiar. Real familiar. Like, staring into the face of death familiar.
I then make a terrible and obvious novice detective’s mistake. I slowly lean around in front of him to see if he is still wearing a holster and carrying a multi-clip semi-automatic pistol while out on his morning errands.
He catches my not-so-subtle spying and looks gravely down upon me. (Like I said, he’s tall. Real tall.)
Well, this is awkward. Me gazing upon his waistline and all that at a country fill-up. But quick-thinking me, I notice that just beyond his belt line is a rack of daily newspapers. I mutter, “s’cuse me, man” and reach ever so gently – and heterosexually – in front of him for a newspaper I have no intention of reading.
But I figure two bucks for some faraway zoning reports and high school football scores is well worth my life.
Unawares that a master sleuth has tracked him down, he ambles off down his dusty lane to his no doubt time-biding pink pistol whipping paramour. Ah, country love.
I drive home below the speed limit and call the detective handling the case. And then I start leafing through the classifieds of that paper for temporary agricultural work in the Southwest, thinking maybe it’s a good time to enter my own witness protection program.
But I never heard back from the cops. Nor the farm cooperative in New Mexico. Nor have I encountered again the tall country brandisher. But Good Friends? Well, they’re forever.